KJ's Upholstery

Fabric Types


When choosing fabrics for upholstered furniture, keep in mind that tightly woven fabrics tend to wear the best. Durability is determined by the number of threads per square inch rather than the thickness of the yarn used. Generally, fabrics that have their pattern woven in will wear better than printed fabrics.

There are many types of fiber used in the manufacturing of upholstery fabrics. They each have unique attributes that must be considered in making a selection based on the planned usage of the piece. In addition to their look and feel, factors to consider are wearability, cleanability and sensitivity to direct sunlight.

Natural Fibers
Prized for their soft " hand" and versatility, the natural fibers remain popular as coverings for upholstered furniture.

Cotton takes color well, is breathable,soft and pliable, and blends well with other fibers. Choices include decorative prints, plaids & chintzs, denim, pattern embossed, and more! We have Cotton velvets and canvas that are rated for heavy duty use also.Not recom-mended for locations with continuous exposure to direct sunlight. While it is often washable, it is somewhat less stain resistant than synthetics.
Has many superior qualities- it is extremely strong and durable. Hemp becomes softer every time you wash it. Hemp material will keep you cool in the heat and is known to be 4 times warmer than cotton material! It is also naturally fire retardant! So as opposed to most other fabrics, it would not need to have fire repellant chemicals added! Growing hemp requires the use of very little pesticides and no herbicides, so is very low impact for the environment. One acre of hemp will produce as much material as 2-3 acres of cotton.
With a strong, cool, crisp " hand", linen is one of the most durable fibers available. Most often found in natural earth colors. Linen reflects heat somewhat better than cotton, but will disintegrate if exposed to repeated intense sunlight. .


Durable: Naturally springy and resilient, wool ranges from very good to extremely durable abrasion resistant.
Fire Retardant: Wool’s inherent resistance to flame and heat make it one of the safest of all upholstery fibers. Comfortable: The absorbent fibers "breathe" by wicking away moisture from the body and releasing it into the air. This quality makes wool fabrics comfortable in warm and cold weather.
Easy Care: Wool fabrics clean easily because dirt sits on the surface of the fiber. The outside surface of the wool fiber consists of a series of overlapping scales, similar to the feathers on a bird, making it easy to brush off and for stains to lift out of it. Wool fabric doesn't collect much static because of its absorbent fibers. Static attracts lint, dirt, and dust. Professional cleaning is recommended.

Available in flannels, herringbones, mohair velvet & more! Exceedingly durable!

One of the most beautiful soft and lustrous fabrics, available in solids, plaids, and gorgeous embroidered choices. These beautiful fabrics are senstive to strong lights, and care should be taken to prevent soiling. Perfect for decorative accent pieces and throw pillows.
Made of processed cellulose, can be woven to emulate silk or linen. Its low cost and blendability with other more expensive fibers make it a popular choice. The fiber. is reasonably colorfast and abrasion
resistant, but cannot withstand repeated exposure to direct sunlight.

Synthetic Fibers
These fibers have been developed over the last sixty years as an alternative to natural fibers and are often blended with them in an effort to achieve the best properties of each.

"Sunbrella" outdoor fabric is UV resistant, water repellent and washable. “Top Gun” and “Reocril” are similar excellent brands, used for outdoor furniture, awnings and boat covers. These solution dyed acrylic or polyester fabrics are treated with a water repellent that repels (beads) water, resist soil, both water and oil based stains and impedes mildew formation. With time and use the original repellency treatment is diminished, making periodic cleaning and retreatment necessary. Sunbrella recommends Fabric Guard 303 products for maintenance.

Vinyl (PVC): Polyvinyl chloride is a waterproof, durable plastic material. Vinyl upholstery is easy to clean and maintain, which makes it ideal for situations where cleanliness is a top priority, such as in hospitals and restaurants. At the end of its long lifespan it eventually cracks and becomes brittle. This is caused by the topcoat becoming worn, damaged or degraded. Vinyl is made from two separate synthetic materials. The fibers of the upholstery are constructed from strong polyester fibers. To keep vinyl fabric soft and flexible, manufacturers add agents known as plasticizers to the raw PVC, which is covered by a thin layer of plastic called the "topcoat". The topcoat is the part of the vinyl you can see and touch.

Polyurethane (PU), “Faux Leather” is the most realistic imitation of genuine leather, with respect to hand, surface feel, and overall appearance. When stitched, gathered, or tufted it actually “breaks” or wrinkles like real leather. Because there are no plasticizers used in PU upholstery there is no cracking or peeling, and it remains soft and supple for the duration of time it remains on the furniture Polyurethane is considered greener than Vinyl because it does not create dioxins. PU resins are made of a softer polymer and therefore don’t need additional plasticizers. PU is made by coating a backing fabric such as cotton, polyester or shredded leather with a flexible polymer and then treating it to look more like animal hide.

Polyester: a polymer that takes vibrant colors well. Polyester is strong and cleanable and stands up well under direct sunlight. Flame and abrasion resistant, it is often blended with natural fibers to soften its feel. Choices range from poplins, canvas, to lush and very durable polyester piles and faux mohair.

Olefin: also known as “Herculon”. It is strong, durable and pill resistant with natural stain resistant properties. Most untreated olefins do not hold up well to direct sunlight or heat. There are also available  solution dyed olefins that are made for use as uv resistant outdoor fabrics.    

Chenille fabric: Chenille yarns are textured yarns which contain a pile extending from their surface. Most chenille fabrics are of a cut pile chenille yarn. Making a chenille yarn is a complicated process that involves twisting the chenille around and fixing it to another yarn. Chenille gives a "pile fabric" appearance, but in most cases does not have the durability of a pile fabric. Chenille fabrics will often flatten with use due to the soft handle. Flattening is a normal characteristic and is not considered a fabric flaw.

Microfibers and "Ultra-Suede" are exceptionally durable as well as luxuriously soft. The densely woven fibers repel moisture and stains.

Nylon: The strongest and most dirt resistant fiber., nylon is used often in commercial applications where it will take a beating. Until recently, nylon typically had a high luster, but now it is often available with a delustered wool look and feel. Its only drawback is its sensitivity to sunlight.

Note: Wool has natural flame retardant properties, but most other fabrics must be treated with fire retardant chemicals prior to being used commercially. Some states are now requiring this treatment on residential upholstered furniture as well.

Review the cleaning code for your chosen fabric and have supplies on hand for spot cleaning 


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